g4 B. POLEVOI Alexei shook his head. He felt so good and restful here. Neither the experiences he had gone through nor the pain in his feet seemed terrible to him now. "What's he saying?" inquired the Chief of Staff in his hoarse voice. uHe wants to remain here with us," answered the Commander, smiling. And at that moment his smile was not enigmatic as it usually was, but friendly and sad. 'Tool! Romantics! An example for Pionerskaya Pravda," said the Chief of Staff. "They do him the honour of sending a plane from Moscow for him by order of the Army Commander himself, but he-----What do you think of him? ..." Meresyev wanted to answer and say that he was not romantic, that he was simply convinced that here, in a tent at the medical base, where he had once spent a few days with a sprained ankle after a crash landing in a damaged plane, that here, in familiar surroundings, he would recover much more quickly than among the unknown conveniences of a Moscow clinic. He had already thought of the words with which to give the Chief of Staff a stinging reply, but before he could utter them the siren emitted its mournful wail. Every face at once assumed a grave and business-like air. The major issued several curt orders and the men began to bustle like ants; some ran to the planes standing under cover on the edge of the woods, some to the com- mand post, distinguished by a small mound on the edge of the field, and some to the machines that were hidden in the woods. Alexei saw a distinct trail of smoke in the sky and the grey, slowly dissolving trail of a multiple-tailed rocket. He understood what it was: the "alert". His heart began to thump, his nostrils quivered, and he felt a cold thrill run down his spine, as he always felt in moments of danger. Lenochka, the mechanic Yura and the "meteo- rological sergeant", who had no particular job to do amidst the feverish bustle of the airfield when the alarm was sounded, snatched up the stretcher and ran, all three of them, to the nearest point on the edge of the wood, trying to keep in step and, of course, failing to do so in their excitement.